Three Reasons Why Virginia Tech Could Beat BC
It’s do-or-die time in Blacksburg following a frustrating loss last weekend against UNC.
There were quite a few highs and lows in that game, and now the Hokies must turn their attention to Boston College to avoid a 2-2 start.
The difference between 2-2 and 3-1 is pretty stark, and the Hokies don’t want to be sitting at the former for the second season in a row, watching their ACC Championship hopes dwindle. The pressure is on for this team to make a statement.
Here are three reasons why I believe that statement could be made:
The Hokies are Angry
We are now in the third season with Rayshard Ashby, Dax Hollifield and Tre Turner as the primary faces of the Hokies. During this time, we have seen this group be extremely emotionally-driven.
In this Virginia Tech football era, they are at their best when emotions are high. Some of the team’s best or grittiest performances have come after facing adversity, such as upsetting UVA in 2018 when the winning streak and bowl streaks were on the line, bouncing back in 2019 against Miami after an embarrassing loss to Duke, blowing out Georgia Tech in 2019 after a heartbreaker against Notre Dame, and most recently, putting the hammer down against NC State to start this season after having their first two games postponed.
If there was ever a reason for the Hokies to play with similar motivation, it’s trying to bounce back from the UNC loss.
It was a horrible performance by the defense as they were seemingly powerless to stop Sam Howell and the Tar Heel offense. They were missing a few key contributors, including Divine Deablo, Keonta Jenkins and DaShawn Crawford, and that clearly hindered them. The Hokie defense is likely dying to prove they can still get stops when the team needs them to, especially as those players hopefully return.
Aside from the lackluster defensive effort, this team has reason to be angry over losing to UNC in particular. This game has become a marquee rivalry as many of the Hokies’ best players are from North Carolina. Hendon Hooker, Tre Turner, Dax Hollifield, Divine Deablo and Brock Hoffman all grew up in NC, and they must have a pretty sour taste in their mouth after letting their hometown rival get the best of them.
A little history nugget for you: in 2016, the Hokies lost a heartbreaking but embarrassing matchup against Tennessee in the Battle of Bristol. After a poor showing against a top 20 team, the Hokies hosted Boston College in Blacksburg. How did Fuente's team bounce back? They crushed BC, 49-0.
If I were the Eagles, I would be worried. This team is determined and ready to take out their anger on some poor team.
BC’s Defense will be Overmatched by Virginia Tech’s Offense
So far this season, Boston College’s defense has looked pretty solid. Not the best in the ACC by any means, but still respectable.
Their best game defensively came in a loss to UNC, when they held the Tar Heels to just 26 points - 30 less than the Hokies allowed to the same team. The Eagles were able to do what most others struggle to do: make Sam Howell uncomfortable. Howell was sacked four times and threw an interception, which all likely played a role in the Heels not scoring as well.
There is certainly reason to fear BC will do the same to Hendon Hooker and the Hokies, but I don’t see it happening.
It is important to note UNC still ran for 174 yards in that game, with their running backs averaging 6.59 yards-per-carry. The Heels have one of the three best rushing offenses in the conference, but the Hokies have the best.
UNC uses their running game as a supplement to Sam Howell’s passing ability, whereas the Hokies run the ball on roughly two-thirds of their plays. This means the Hokies will try to run the ball more than UNC did, and they will further expose Boston College’s inability to stop elite running games.
Khalil Herbert and Raheem Blackshear are comparable to UNC’s Michael Carter and Javonte Williams, while the Hokie offensive line is undoubtedly better than any other BC has faced this season.
BC is not equipped to stop an elite rushing attack, and the Hokies will take advantage.
It is important to note, however, despite the mismatch, the Eagles will likely load up the box early on to try to slow the Hokie running backs down.
Defenses everywhere are taking note of Khalil Herbert, but he is especially putting fear into the Eagles’ hearts. While at Kansas last season, Herbert rushed for 187 yards and a touchdown against BC. Now that Herbert is on a team with a real offensive line, BC has to be terrified of him.
Because of that, they will likely do everything they can to limit him early. This will open the door for Hooker to take advantage, both with his own running ability and through spreading the ball out to Turner, James Mitchell and Tayvion Robinson.
Ultimately, BC has a defense that could play well against most ACC teams, but the Hokies haven’t scored less than 38 points in a game yet this season, and BC is not the team to change that.
The LPD Will Bounce Back Against a One-Dimensional Offense
BC’s QB, Notre Dame transfer Phil Jurkovec, has been quite impressive thus far. He is second in the conference in passing yards per game, and he has even earned Ben Roethlisberger comparisons from Justin Fuente.
That said, BC is dead last in the ACC in rushing, averaging only 60 yards-per-game on the ground. This puts all the pressure on Jurkovec to carry the load offensively.
Despite how depleted the Hokie secondary has been, the problem last week mainly lied with the rushing defense. I’ll go ahead and make this clear: Boston College is not going to run for 400 yards. They probably won’t even run for half of that. They may not even run for a third of that.
As he has had to do all season, Jurkovec will have to make up for a pathetic running game. And this time, I don’t see him maintaining his nearly 300-yard average.
This will be the first time the Hokies’ cornerbacks will be near full strength, as Jermaine Waller was forced to move to the nickel position early in his first game back last week after Chamarri Conner was ejected. Waller and Chatman will both likely be out there, and they will get the job done in slowing down BC’s passing game.
As good as Jurkovec has been, most of his production has come from throwing the ball to two targets: WR Zay Flowers and TE Hunter Long. They are first and third in the ACC in yards-per-game, respectively, and are both clearly talented players.
However, with Waller being one of the top DB’s in the ACC, Flowers will likely be limited. Should Deablo return as well, he will likely be called to use his size and athleticism to focus on Long.
If those two guys are limited, BC will not have the talent needed to keep up with VT’s offense.
Waller and Deablo will be the two guys to watch for the Hokies, and should they play their best, I expect very few points to be scored by the Eagles as Justin Fuente’s crew will pull away early.